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Charlotte Lytton

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Why Are Women Being Edged Out of History?

Posted: 09/07/2013 00:00

All around the UK on Sunday there were jubilant cries as Andy Murray scored his first Wimbledon win. The moment - one filled with pride, happiness and excitement - was a thrilling and thoroughly well deserved notch on both his, and the nation's, sporting belt. But what was less thrilling, however, was the way in which this collective victory that had so rapturously united millions soon turned into an apparent one man show - with numerous news outlets reporting that Murray's success in the tournament was a British first in 77 years.

He might be the first male Brit to win Wimbledon since 1936, but a woman - make that two, in fact, have lifted the top prize at the London Grand Slam during that time. In 1969 and 1977 Ann Haydon-Jones and Virginia Wade respectively went on to win the major title, making their mark on British sporting history. Or so they might have thought. With websites such as the BBC excitedly announcing this near eight decade 'first', it's a wonder why women bother excelling at all. If their achievements are simply going to be forgotten as soon as a man reaches the same level of success, why even try in the first place?

Sport is such a notoriously hostile environment for women - one that sees them being sidelined and overlooked again and again - that their triumphs should be celebrated perhaps more emphatically than those of their male counterparts, particularly in a competition of as high a calibre as Wimbledon. For those women who have worked tirelessly to reach the top of their game in an industry that treats them as second class citizens is something to be lauded, not casually erased from public consciousness. With female players not only battling against archaic preconceptions about sport 'not being for girls' but also having to contend with streams of misogynistic filth criticising their on-court appearances (those following Marion Bartoli's championship victory were truly horrifying), scrubbing their names from the history books only serves to belittle their achievements and reinforce the gender gap even further.

It might seem innocuous to many, this failure to mention former British female Wimbledon winners, but it is yet another instance in which women's successes are shown to be dramatically inferior to those of men. The current plans to feature men only on bank notes from 2016 displays once again how achievements, no matter how great, are rendered meaningless if they have not been undertaken by those of the opposite sex.

What I can't quite get my head around is how this kind of public-stage gender bias is allowed to be enforced in 2013. Should we not be worried that generations of children are growing up believing that a man's place is on a bank note, while a woman's is on page three of a tabloid newspaper? We are slowly but surely habiting a world in which the very women we should be aspiring to emulate are hidden increasingly further from the public sphere. Hard as it is to believe, the vast majority of young people like myself don't want to see 19-year-old Amy smiling blithely with her baps out - we want to look around and see women we can be truly proud of, and excited for, who motivate us to believe that breaking gender barriers and achieving great things are necessary and worthwhile endeavours.

There is no denying that Murray's centre court performance on Sunday was a landmark moment that will rightly endure for decades - centuries, perhaps. But let's not remember it as a victory that dwarfed and denied those that came before it, but one which adds to and builds upon a sporting history that allows both sexes to shine.

 

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